A huge number of exercise and fitness trends are being driven by time-poor consumers who are looking for fast fitness solutions. One of the most prominent examples is EMS – Electrical Muscle Stimulation – the technology which has grown popular in the German market and is now poised for international growth.
The benefits of EMS
Because EMS sessions take only 20 minutes, they’re an attractive option for people who are struggling to fit enough exercise into their lives: each session is said to be the equivalent of a 90-minute workout in a traditional gym. For customers, EMS has many physiological benefits – the electrical stimulation works all muscles, improving deep muscle tone and balancing out the symmetry of the body. It also improves lymphatic drainage and circulation in the periphery. With the correct supervision, an EMS workout is easier on the joints than a traditional gym workout, meaning it can be used by older and deconditioned people, as well as those with joint pain. It’s also a powerful tool for use in rehabilitation and physical therapy, with a strong customer base among physiotherapists, adding to its reputation. The increasing interest in prevention is also driving more business for EMS suppliers, as people appreciate the power of staying well and the role EMS can play in this.
The business opportunity
The footprint for an EMS studio is small and the relatively low cost of market entry is attracting attention from investors interested in opening both independent EMS studios and ‘club within club’ EMS operations within existing gyms and health clubs. With its high profit margins and fast-growing consumer demand, we believe EMS has all the characteristics needed to scale internationally, with the US a particularly strong potential market, due to American consumers’ desire for fast results in all areas of wellness. We think EMS will also tap into new markets of consumers who avoid the gym, due to an aversion to the discomfort of very strenuous exercise and who will appreciate the less arduous nature of an EMS workout. This will open up opportunities for growth, both in the gym market and on the high street. EMS sessions are currently priced at the equivalent of a personal training or boutique session, but as the market matures, we expect prices to become more competitive, widening the reach of the sector and opening the market to greater numbers of consumers.
A favourable climate
Other factors point to EMS as a growth trend, including opportunities which are emerging due to changes in the property market. As retailers retreat from traditional retail locations in the face of competition from online sales, they’re leaving behind a wide range of suitable commercial spaces which can be repurposed as EMS studios. High street failures are driving down rents and leaving landlords more open to doing business with smaller startups than previously, creating opportunities for EMS investors. The EMS market is further strengthened by the existence of an exceptional supplier base, most notably in the German market, where the demand for EMS training has combined with robust competition to forge a cohort of professional and well-established equipment suppliers. These businesses, which have honed and fine-tuned their EMS systems in a competitive market, are experienced in international trade and sophisticated marketing and have an appetite for growth. Importantly, these suppliers have also invested in independent research to verify the safety and efficacy of EMS as a protocol, adding weight to their marketing arguments and reassuring consumers.
When we consider all these factors together – the growing consumer demand for fast fitness, the potential to attract non-exercisers, the availability of suitable and affordable real estate, the presence of a raft of strong supplier companies backed by solid research and the high profit margins involved, it becomes clear that EMS is set for international growth – at scale – in the short to medium term. This growth will be driven in part by the globalisation of FIBO, Reed Exhibitions’ fitness exhibition, and educational event. Starting from a base in Germany in 1985, FIBO Global Fitness now runs eight major fitness trade and consumer fitness shows worldwide, giving EMS suppliers strong marketing firepower to enable them to grow their businesses and introduce EMS to the wider world for both in-home and out-of-home use.
Liz Terry MBE Editor Health Club Management magazine FIBO Global Media Partner